Health, education, economic and human services are converging in one place along the “racial divide” corridor in St. Louis – Delmar Boulevard – to serve as a stimulus for transforming the generally socially and economically neglected, predominately African American sector north of the divide.
The convergent place, called Delmar Divine, birthed to life in the old St. Luke’s Hospital, 5501 Delmar Blvd., which opened its doors there in 1904. The building has sat vacant since 2014 after St. Louis ConnectCare, the city’s effort to meet the health and medical needs of lower income person, closed its doors after a 17-year run. St. Luke’s Hospital relocated its main operations to Chesterfield in west county in 1985.
The reborn building, splendidly renovated into a state-of-the-art facility, houses 30 nonprofit tenants in spacious office space, minority incubator, retails operations and 150 residential apartments for low income and professional tenants. The facility has a gym and 20 conference rooms. A “Deli Divine” is in the works as well as a black-owned pharmacy, St. Louis Community Credit Union branch and an Edward Jones office. Washington University, the Brown School, and the Center for Human Service Leadership are partners in Delmar Divine.
The visionary force fueling the innovation of bringing people together is Maxine Clark, the retired CEO and founder of highly successful Build-A-Bear Workshop, a retailer that sells customized teddy bears and other stuffed animals.
The mission of the former St. Luke’s Hospital and the theme of Build-A-Bear Workshop empowers Clark’s vision for Delmar Divine, to tackle poverty, childcare, health inequities, mental health issues, economic opportunities and social divisions to make north of Delmar a vibrant community to live and work in.
“At Build-A-Bear, we would say, ‘hug a bear’,” she says. “Now lets hug a neighborhood. As a hospital, this was a place for caring for people – we’re bringing that back.”
Clayco Inc. was the general contractor for the renovation. Clark says many of the subcontractors were black owned firms, adding that the security firm and cleaning company are black owned.
One of the tenants at Delmar Divine is iFM Community Medicine, a not-for-profit healthcare organization that partners with other nonprofits including schools, shelters, and social service organizations to bring healthcare to their students, residents and clients “within their walls”.
iFM delivers healthcare to underserved and under-resourced children, youth and adults who are facing the challenges of poverty and are frequently, escaping abusive situations.
“We bridge gaps to healthcare by eliminating the typical barriers of transportation, cost, and, in many cases, fear and distrust of the traditional healthcare system” says founder and CEO Dr. David Campbell. “By partnering with these agencies with whom these individuals already have a trusting relationship, we are able to connect more easily.”
Clark shared her vision for Delmar Divine during a presentation at the facility held in conjunction with Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund (SOS), an organization that inspires women to engage in informed, collective grantmaking by investing in Greater St. Louis’ small nonprofits to positively effect change in area communities. SOS has invested over $3.1 million in the St. Louis community since 2007. Clark is a member of the organization.
For more information about Delmar Divine, visit www.delmardivine.com.